White people must hold each other accountable for racism
August 22, 2018 § 19 Comments
Adam Catzavelos is yet another example of blatant racism and complete disregard of the majority of people who are in the country he makes money and lives in. Below is his free and overly comfortable use of the the K-word.
Truth is there is no increase in incidents of racism. There has been an increase in cellphones and people with data. Racism is now brought to us by data. In the case of Adam, he must have felt very comfortable to send this video to someone he thought shared his views. One of the white people this video was sent to leaked it. I am guessing they were shocked by what they heard.
For the majority of their lives, racists have got away with their behaviour. Year in and year out. They have been rewarded by friends who agree with them.
Or if they do not agree, have remained silent, and as such racists continue to be emboldened about how right they are, and thus feel entitled to continue being racist.
Here is the problem, other white people who themselves might not be racist, have given consent through silence. And as Thomas More said in A Man for all Seasons, “Silence gives consent”.
It is the responsibility of every white person who purports to support the idea of non-racialism to police white racists. Why? Because those of us who have to encounter racism, are not there when racist ideas are incubated and allowed to grow. They grow in the privacy of whiteness.
Why is it that it almost exclusively takes a black person to report racism? The truth is, racists, do operate in a vacuum. They are given the impression that they have numerous people who agree with them because silence has given them consent.
When I moved to Johannesburg in 2006, the company I worked for put me up at B&B for a month until I found my place. I met middle-aged American white women who had been travelling the world. What they told me was how amazed they were by how readily racist they found white South Africans to be.
They said when white South Africans would tell them that if they happened to hit a black person while driving, they should keep driving because these ‘monkeys will kill you’. They were shocked and traumatised by the fact that perfect strangers assumed that they shared these racist views.
Later, I worked on an anti-racist advertising campaign and interviewed a white researcher who worked at the Institute for Race Relations in South Africa. What he told me was that white South Africans are the only people in the world who will openly express their racist attitudes to another white stranger, assuming that they too shared the same views.
I wrote an article a few years ago about a white friend of mine who had moved from Germany to South Africa to study; she told me that she was shocked by how racist Cape Town was. And how other white people assumed she shared their racist views too, just because she is white.
It’s your responsibility, not ours.
When the schools were opened to black people, I was the only black child in my class in primary school. I was in the classroom as the other kids. Our teacher could not be in class for that lesson for some reason. The class was well-behaved, as well-behaved as primary school kids can be without adult supervision.
One of the kids attempted to provoke me. I kept ignoring him. I had also recently read Alan Paton’s Cry The Beloved Country, a book my mother had forced me to read, and I couldn’t put down once I started reading.
Seeing that I was unmoved by his provocations, he took Tipp-Ex and painted a single white brush stroke on my black arm and said: “You think you’re white now hey?”
Again I ignored him. The other children in the class looked on, unsure what to do. I continued working, or pretending to be working while doing all I could to control what I could feel was going to be an uncontrollable outburst if I did not contain it. I was aware of my environment.
I was the only black kid. If I reacted physically, it would be the white class vs the black child.
He pointed again and said: “Look, he thinks he’s white!” gesturing to the other white kids. I ignored him. Then he said: “You think you’re white? Rub that off, kaffir!” It was at that point that I jumped and lunged towards him, I don’t know what happened, but I was held back and told not do anything to him.
I attempted to wrangle myself out of the many grips of white hands that held me back, hands with mouths that had said nothing the whole time I was being provoked. At this point, I was crying out of pure lonely black anger in a white class.
At one point, I felt my hand being grabbed by one of the boys, with tears streaming down my face (no Coldplay). He marched me out of the class and said: “Let’s go to Mr Prentis’ office.” That was the principal.
We walked out of the class. He had my hand the whole time, marching me, and I was following him, weak, angry and tired. I don’t even think I knew where I was being led.
I couldn’t believe that I was the one now who was in trouble. The young white hand gripped my black hand, and the white mouth said: “We are going to report him.” Then he walked right past Mr Prentis’ secretary and knocked on his door, and before a response could be made, he opened the door and pushed me in. The young white kid was Darren Lentz.
Mr Prentis looked puzzled, and his face immediately became sympathetic after seeing my teary-eyed face. He concluded the meeting he was having immediately and ushered me into his office. He asked me what was wrong. I responded between sobs – you know the sobs children make – between quickened and uncontrollable gasps for air while crying and wiping away tears. I told him that I had been called a kaffir. And I told him the boy’s name.
To hell with silent morality.
He immediately shouted: “Darren, go get that boy now!” Darren went to the class. They arrived together. Mr Prentis then said to the boy: “What did you call Khayalethu?”
“I didn’t call him anything, sir,” he said while looking down. Mr Prentis then looked at him again and said: “Are you telling me that Khayalethu is a liar?”
He responded and said, “No sir.”
Then Prentis looked at him and said: “Do you know what Portuguese are called when people want to demean them?”
“Would you like it if I asked Khayalethu to call you that?”
He shook his head; now he too was holding back tears.
After giving a lecture on racism, Mr Prentis looked at the both of us and told the boy to shake my hand. We extended hands and shook them. After that, we became good friends throughout primary school.
The point I am making with this story is that it took another white kid to stand up against racism. Not just silently, he did something about it there and then. He was not a silent moralist. Silent morality that does not act out nor speak out against injustice cancels itself out. To hell with silent morality in the face of injustice.
Mr Prentis could have easily said: “Well, let boys be boys. He meant nothing by it; it was just a joke. Take it, easy man.” But instead, he reminded him that he too could be demeaned unjustly.
The end of racism is in the hands of white people. These racists are allowed to spew their hate in front of other white people at first, who allow them to fester their hatred.
White people, hold each other accountable when it comes to racism.
This text first appeared in an article I wrote for News24 in 2016. The Darren story also appears in my new book, These Things Really Do Happen to Me, available from 1st September 2018. Times change, racism doesn’t.